Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ohio State vs. Michigan Breakdown-Updated

Another game, another dominating rushing performance, and another example of Tresselball in action on the offensive end.  The fact that it ended with another victory over the Wolverines and an outright Big Ten title made it all the better (and at times more maddening). 

1.  This game had a very interesting chess match on the offensive side of the football (and I don't say that often).   But the back and forth was interesting to see.

First, Michigan came out showing something defensively they had not for any significant spurts this year--a 3-3-5.  In reality, it was more like an old 5-3-3.  To take a step back, Michigan has shown quite a few 8 man fronts this year, but they were more of a 4-4 variety.  Specifically, it was essentially a 4-3 open plus, with the 3-technique strong, the strong end in a 5-technique and the strong linebacker covering the tight end, and then a 4th linebacker player in a traditional 'over' position on the weakside. (h/t:  MGoBlog).

Against Ohio State, however, Michigan came out in Rodriguez's favored 3-3-5 (which makes me think he may have taken over the defense again).

As can be seen, Michigan essentially played it as a 5-3 with the ends in '3' techniques and both hybrid players on the end of the LOS.  In so doing, they were effective shutting down Ohio State's I formation run game, particularly Dave, because, even if blocked correctly, the Fullback would kick out the outside linebacker, the pulling guard would pull around on the frontside linebacker, but the Mike or Will linebacker would be left free.  Ohio State at first tried to counter this by running Dave to the weakside, but it wasn't any more successful.*

After getting a feel for what Michigan was doing, however, Ohio State did a fantastic job of using formations to attack and force Michigan out of this set.  They did so by using the basic principle of numbers on each side of the centerline and forcing the defense to react.

  To begin at first principles, one advantage an offense has against a defense is that by formations they can dictate where a defense puts its defenders.  By that, I mean the offense has multiple choices about how to distribute its numbers on both sides of the center.  For example, a standard 'I' formation has six men to the TE side, 5 to the weakside (each person on the center line--center, QB, FB, TB--counts as half).  By contrast, a 1 back 'ace' formation has 5 1/2 to each side.

A defense must respond with the same numbers on each side of the centerline--otherwise they are structurally unsound and open to a quick pass or option.  So if the offense puts 5 1/2 to one side, the defense must do the same.

The 5-3-3's limitation is that, by playing a middle safety, a defense is severely handicapped in mirroring the offense's balance when they go to ace (single back) formations.  As Homer Smith discusses,

When single-back formations waxed, the 5-3 defenses waned. Why? Because balancing on three centerline offenders - on a center, a QB, and a single-back - and keeping the MG/MLB tandem meant having a middle safety. One defender on the centerline will balance on three centerline offenders but two will not. Two will leave the defense out of balance and vulnerable on one side. 
So Ohio State attacked in exactly this manner.  They first went to a balanced shotgun 'ace' look. 

And, just as Homer Smith said, Michigan, by leaving their safety to the field, in the clip above (as they could against the I when it was 6/5) were vulnerable on the leftside.  Ohio State was thus able to get a numbers 'advantage to their left side, and when Pryor gets into the secondary the safety is out of position to help. (They obviously didn't read Homer Smith--though in all seriousness I was uninmpressed by how structurally unsound Michigan was all game).

Ohio State then went a step further and by formation forced Michigan to abandon the 3-3-5.  To do so, Ohio State went to what I call their "shotgun trey strong look," which is a strength heavy 7/4 split (about the only way to get to 7/4 without going unbalanced).

Michigan's 3-3-5 (or 5-3), however, is predicated on balancing the front 8 on both sides of the center and then adjusting the secondary accordingly.  They could not do that against the tight trips, however, because they could not do so and get 7 men to the formation's strength.  Thus, as you can see above, Michigan had to go to a different look against this formation to be structurally sound.

Therefore, Ohio State, by use of formation, dictated to Michigan what they could do.  The rest of the game, whenever OSU lined up in a pro-set Michigan would go back to the 5-3, but could not do it against this formation.  A very nice job by the OSU offensive coaches adjusting to the wrinkle Michigan showed, knowing how to attack it, and forcing Michigan out of it.

2.  I was also very impressed with what Ohio State did with the zone read.  It had several unique, cutting edge wrinkles that I was impressed with.  The first was the formation set.  By going double tight, Ohio State took what is ostensibly a 'spread' play and put Jim Tressel's patented power principles behind it.  Second, Ohio State did not read the end man on the LOS, as the basic zone read does.  Instead, as VBCoach on the Scout "Ask the Insiders Board" explained, Ohio State read the inside '4i' technique and then had the TE fan block on the outside linebacker.

This is pretty innovative stuff.  Oregon has gotten notoriety recently for their ability to 'read' the inside 3 and 4 techniques on the zone read.  In this way they've become closer to true option teams like Georgia Tech that will one play run the 'veer' option that reads the 5 technique, and the next run the midline option that reads the 3 technique.  But Oregon considers it so cutting edge, that one anecdotal story has it that they will not release any informaton on it.

Ohio State, however, did the very same thing.  They blocked the outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage and instead read the interior lineman.  I do not know if this was gameplanned or an adjustment they made to what Michigan was showing, but either way it was a very nice design.

3.  I know some fan base segments are still kerfluffled about the Ohio State's offense's basic strategic outlook the past few weeks; namely Ohio State's heavy reliance on running the football .  I have a few thoughts on this.  The first is that people are severely undervaluing a good running game.  Yards are yards.  Rushing the football, however, is a) less risky, and b) controls the clock.  So, theoretically, if you could gain the same amount of yards running or passing, you would choose to run.  Jim Tressel basically embraces this theory.  When Tressel first came to Ohio State, he gave a coaches' clinic talk (highly recommended reading).  Tressel did a study on OSU during the 1990s.  He found that when OSU rushed for over 200 yards they were 56-2.  So any time Tressel has a team that can consistenly rush for over 200 yards he is going to embrace that and ride it.  Especially when you have a defense like OSU does, if the offense can rush for 200 yards it means they are making first downs, keeping the defense out of bad situations, and will be difficult for any team to beat.

The obvious rejoinder is "what if they stop it, then what do you do?"   Well first, the other team has to stop it--very solid defenses in Iowa and Penn State were not able to.  But this also leads to my second point, which is that you do not necessarily have to pass a lot to keep the defense off balance.  What Ohio State has instead been able to do is use Terrelle Pryor's legs as that counter and threat off the edge.  His legs, in essence, replace what a passing game would do in some situations and provide the outside complement to the inside run game.  It is what they rely on in 3d down situations  where others would turn to the pass.

The third, also related point, is that Ohio State is just not consistent enough in the passing game to rely on it.  This is by no means to say they are not good, it just means that mistakes up and down have prevented the passing game from having a high enough completion percentage to be a reliable go-to.  The number of incompletions and inability to get the ball downfield has limited the yards per pass attempt and thus the passing game's effectiveness.  For example, against Michigan Ohio State got the ball back with good field position in the first half up 14-3 and went for the kill shot.  But 3 pass plays later indicate the passing game's relative limits right now.

  • 1st-10:  Sprint Draw action right, nice protection Pryor has Posey open deep and overthrows him.
  • 2d-10:  Sprint out right.  Good protection.  Pryor throws to Carter on a hitch, hits him right in the hands and he drops it.  Would have been a 15 yard gain.
  • 3d-10:  Michigan brings a delayed blitz, gets to Pryor, he tries to scramble away but can't and has to throw it away.
Update:  As Chris Brown discusses here, the lower your completion percentage, the more likely you end up in 3d and 10, and the corresponding less likely you are to convert a first down.  In addition, the more likely you are to throw an interception, the less valuable passing becomes.  Either/or will correspondingly make you 'passing premium' higher.

The point here, is that if Tressel has three choices between 1) inside running, 2) Pryor running, or 3) passing, he is likely going to choose 1 or 2, as they have been more consistent.  Ohio State has, however, done a nice job the last two weeks coming out passing to set up the running game later.

4.  At this point, it is hard to know exactly what this offense is capable of   Every time Iowa or Michigan got close, Ohio State opened the throttle and put touchdowns on the board that regained the advantage.  And by opening the throttle I don't just mean passing more, but also doing things like breaking tendencies, getting Pryor out in space, and using constraint plays.  But then when they get a lead, even if only a one score one, Tressel is content to shorten the game and let the defense do the rest.  It would be interesting to see what happened if the offense had to play in a close game environment the entire time (though I'm happy for them to keep having the score advantage).

5.  Many have asked about a possible matchup with Oregon, and I will have a lot more to say if Oregon beats Oregon St. (though I think Ore. St. has a very good chance in that game).  But I will say this--to beat Oregon, every one should embrace the idea of Tresselball.  It is a matchup of two contrasting styles--Oregon would rather outscore you 50-48, while Ohio State obviously wants to put their defense in a position to win the game.  One key will be what kind of style prevails during that game--Ohio State does not want to get in a track meet.  Teams have had success running on Oregon, and if I'm Ohio State, I want to put together a number of time-consuming, ran laden drives that eat up clock, do not turn the ball over, and then sprinkle in Pryor on the edge and the passing game.  But look for more detail on that coming soon...

* Note:  to have blocked this play against the 5-3 successfully, Ohio State would have had to changed their blocking assignments, given up trying to get any double teams and instead had their TE stick on the outside, the playside Guard and Center each block back alone and the fulback and guard each lead through the hole.   Similar to this (though this is a counter trey) (h/t:  Homer Smith).

OSU I don't think, however, was prepared for this defense since it was the first time Michigan showed it and you could tell they were having blocking assignment issues with it.

Play-by-Play After the Jump:

1st-10:  Shotgun Ace tight (2 x 2) halfback left.  Michigan 3-4 with
safety walked up to the TB side.    Fly motion to trey left.  Fake
outside zone right, playaction roll left.  Flood left.  Decent
protection-Cordle gets beat late.  Pryor steps up into the throw,
throws a nice out to Saine.  12 yd gain.
1st-10:  I left-motion to I right, motion back to I left (Michigan
keeps flipping their front.  Michigan stack 5-3.  1 high.  Dave left.
Blown play.  Both guards pulled, good thing they didn’t give each
other concussions.  1 yd gain.
2d-9:  Shotgun fly motion to trips right.  Michigan 5-3 1 high.  Both
CBs to trips side.  Sprint out right.  Smash route right.  Michigan is
in some sort of zone, nice throw hits Posey on a curl.  11 yd gain.
1st-10:  I twins left.  4-4 under.  1 high.  Dave right.  Graham
stalemated Ballard.  Boren couldn’t pull around Graham in the
backfield so the playside LBer comes unblocked.  No gain.
2d-9:  I twins right.  3-5 eagle.  1 high.  Dave play pass left.
Smash left.  Man cover 1.  Linebackers really bit hard.  Browning gets
out onto the playside Lber.  Posey is open but Pryor doesn’t get his
feet set and overthrows him.  Incomplete.
3d-9:  Shotgun split backs twins left.  4-3 over. Dropback.  All curl.
 Mich in cover 1 robber.  Shugarts does a nice job on Graham, with
help from Boren.   Pryor maybe threw short before he needed to to
Saine.  3 yd gain.
1st-10:  I left.  Michigan 3-5.  1 high.  Quick screen to Posey.  Nice
tackle by Warren, 2 yd gain.
2d-8:  Shotgun 4 wide trips left.  Mich nickel 1 high.  All curl
route. Cordle lets too much penetration into the backfield.  Pryor
doesn’t step up into the throw, short hops it to Small, who is open
3d-8:  Shotgun ace tight trey left-fly motion right.  Michigan nickel
2 high.  Cover 2.  Fake speed option play pass right.  3 verticals.
Martin beat browning off the ball inside.  Otherwise the protection
was fine.  Pryor sacked 4 yd loss.
1st-10:  Gun Ace tight TB right.  Mich 5-3.  1 high.  Green Bay
packers sweep left (both Guards pulling).  Ballard does a nice job
maintaining his block and taking 88 to the sideline.  Boom does a nice
job following Boren up threw the hole—Boren then pancakes his guy.  4
yd gain.
2d-6:  I twins right.  Mich 5-3 1 high.  Dave right (to split side).
Michigan gets frontside penetration on Shugarts.  The Mike is going to
come free anyway because the numbers do not work.  Z. Boren kicks out
the end, J. Boren takes the Will, but Mike is still there.   Need to
block it differently to have any hope of success.  1 yd gain.
3d-5:  Gun 4-wide:  Michigan nickel 2 high.  Dropback.  Michigan 2
deep.  Coverage beater to each side.  Double slants to the left,
“snag” to the right (Flag, arrow, flat combo).  Lazy route running by
Dane and Posey-not sharp, covered by two LBers.  Good protection-nice
job by Cordle on Graham.  Pryor makes the right read on the No. 2
inside defender to the snag side. Boom would have likely got the first
if he didn’t bobble the ball.
1st-10:  I tight left.  Michigan 6-3.  Warren walked up over Stoney as
No. 1 recevier to the side.  Dave right.  Michigan has 4 guys to the
playside to our 2.  Boom does a decent job cutting inside but J. Boren
doesn’t hold his block.  Neither does Brewster.  No gain.
2d-10:  I twins left.  Mich 5-3 1 high.  MI showing no respect for TE.
 Both corners on twins side, only LB on TE side.  ISO right.  Brewster
gets beat across his face into the hole but Boom makes a great cut
right behind that for a big gain.  20 yards.
1st-10:  I twins left.  Michigan 3-5 over.  Dave pass play left.
Crash  inside on the Dave fake.  Mich looks like a cover 3 but have no
under support because linebackers all bit.  Posey wide open on the
hitch.  Pryor’s feet are really open and throws all arm, which makes
it sail a little.  12 yd gain.
1st-10:  Gun motion to ace tight trips.  Michigan 4-4 over.  Sprint
out right.  Flood right.  Good protection.  Nice job by Shugarts
turning it inside.  Hits Posey on the hitch.  Posey just kind of runs
out of bounds.  6 yards.
2d-4:  I twins left.  Mich-4-4 over.  1 hight.  ISO right.  Graham
beats Shugarts into the hole.  Boom tries to cut back left, but
Browning has his guy sealed off that way so he makes the tackle.
3d-3;  Gun ace tight right.  Mich 5-3 1 high.  Speed option right.
Boom completely lost his pitch relationship.   If he keeps it its an
easy first down.  Pryor had no one to pitch to though.  Bad job by
1st-10:  Gun ace tight left.  Mich Eagle 5-3.  Zone read right.
Unbelievable run by Saine.  Michigan slants into the play.  Saine runs
through 8 defenders.  Breaks two arm tackles at the LOS, then through
2 guys.  Nice job by Brewster getting his head playside to establish
the crease.  15 yd gain.
1st-10:  Ace gun tight right.  Mich 4-3 stack with safety coming up.
Dropback.  4 verticals.  Mich cover 3.  Shugarts got beat by Graham.
Pryor nice scramble, runs over Brown, and then steps out of bounds
short of the first down.  Not sure what he is thinking there…9 yd
2d-1:  I twins right.  Michigan 4-3 under 2 high.  ISO right.  Brandon
Graham destroys Cordle, creates a 1 yd loss.
3d-1:  I twins right.  Mich 4-3 under 2 high (not sure why they are
going 2 high here).  Dave right.  Graham beats Ballard but Browning
comes around and picks him up.  Nice kick-out block by Z. Boren.
Tough short yardage run by Saine for the first.  3 yd gain.
1st-10:  Gun Ace tight left.  Michigan 5-3.  Zone read right.   Pryor
keeps great read.  Leave Graham unblocked he comes down onto Saine.
Stoney fans out onto the OLB.  Pryor makes a great run getting right
up the field and runs by everyone.  20 yd gain.
1st-10:  Gun ace trips right strong right.  Mich 4-4 over.  1 high.
Fake speed option counter left.  Great play by Cordle.  Comes down and
blocks the 5 technique, then releases and fans out on Warren.  Creates
a huge hole for Saine.  TD.
1st-10:  I twins right.  Mich 4-3 over. 2 high.  Sprint draw playfake
right.  3 verticals.  Nice protection tons of time.  Posey has his man
deep.  Pryor just really overthrew him.
2d-10:  Gun motion trips right.  Sprint out right.  Good protection.
Throws to Carter on the hitch.  Warren tries to jump it and misses.
Hits Carter right in the hands and he drops it.  If he catches that he
has a 15 yd gain.
3d-10:  Ace trey right.  Mich nickel.  Delayed blitz gets to Pryor.
Pryor tries to get to corner but can’t-if it’s the wideside of the
field he can scramble.  Instead just throws it away.  This drive had
some major missed opportunities.
Major missed opportunities.

1st-Gun Ace Tight right.  Mich 3-3-5.  1 high (slightly shaded wide
side).  Sweep left.  Great patience by Boom waiting for Browning to
pull around and then following him up behind Brewster.  Boren drove S.
Brown 10 yards down field and pancaked him.  12 yd run.
1st-10:  Gun Ace tight left.  Mich 3-3-5 shaded wide side
(structurally unsound against this look—offense has six to the
boundary, defense only has 5).  Zone read.  Great read by Pryor.  OSU
totally takes advantage of Michigan being structurally unsound.  If
Posey makes his block it’s a TD.  13 yd gain.
1st-10:  I twins right.  Mich 3-3-5.  Safety in middle (again
unsound-6 vs 5 ½ to field).  Sprint draw pass right.  Z. Boren and
Boom make the incorrect read in pass pro and block inside when the
line has turned right (or Shugarts might have screwed up by following
Graham slanting inside when he was BOB).  Pryor looks like he could
have scrambled outside,  instead gets the grounding call.  Minus 25.
2d-25:  I twins right.  Mich 4-3 over 2 high.  ISO left.  Hole was
initially there, but Mike scraped off.
3d-25:  Ace gun tight left, fly motion to trey .  Zone read right.
Nice run by Pryor bouncing out, but too much to gain.  Nice job by him
staying in bounds.

1st-10:  1st-10:  Unbalanced twins right.  Mich.  3-3-5 open.  3 high.
 Dave right.  Nice pin block by Browning playside on Graham.  Nice job
by the Boren boys feeling the whole outside—J. Boren then runs right
by the playside hybrid, but Saine cuts up and runs through an arm
tackle for 6.
2d-4:  Gun trips left, TB left (7/4).   Mich 4-3 over open.  1 high.
Fake sweep right, bubble screen left.  Good play fake that controlled
the nickel back, Dane dropped the ball-probably a 20 yd play left on
the field.  Incomplete.
3d-4:  Gun 10 personnel.  4-3 over open.  2 high.  Dropback—Double
slant combo left; levelsright.  Lazy routes again-Posey doesn’t cut
hard, rounds off the route.  Line slides right; decent protection but
Saine cuts Graham, so not a ton of time.  Pryor locks onto Posey,
tries to force it in there, INT.

1st-10:  Gun trey strong left (11 personnel), TB left.  Mich 4-3 under
2 high.  Zone read right.   Pryor should have probably kept.  Boren
drives the 1 technique so far down, creates a big hole.  5 yd gain.
2d-4:  Gun trey strong right, TB right.  Mich-4-3 over, 1 high.
Supposed to be zone read left.  Dropped snap, but Pryor is able to
outrun everyone around the right edge and make a play out of nothing.
13 yard gain.
1st-10:  I unbalanced twins left (again 7/4 personnel split).  Mich
3-4 over open.  1 high.  Dave left.  Both Brewster and Shugarts get
beat blocking back, creating backside penetration.  Then Z. Boren does
not kick out on the proper outside LBer.  1 yd gain.
2d-6:  Gun Trey left, strong TB left (7/4).  Mich 4-3 over with LBers
playing to trips side.  1 high in middle.  Zone read right.  Great
push off the ball.  Unbelievable blocks by Brewster, Boren, and the
right side. Brewster completely turns his backside to the hole while
blocking the LBer, while Browning and Shugarts seal their guys to the
sideline, creating the gap, and Boren drives his guy 5 yards off the
ball and pancakes him, preventing any backside support.   Great
blocking.  15 yd gain.
1st-10:   Gun trey left strong.  Mich 4-3 over nickel 2 deep.  Zone
read right.  Great push again by Boren, Brewster and Browning.  Best
run I’ve seen Boom Herron.  Patient, found the crease, picked up his
feet and hit the hole hard.  12 yd gain.
1st-10:  Gun ace tight TB right.  Mich 3-3-5 1 high to the field.
LBers cheating to the boundary, MG.  Zone read left.  Mich slants
left, Pryor should have probably kept, Graham comes through. 0 yd
2d-11:  Gun ace trey left strong.  Mich.  4-4 over to field.  Zone
read right.  Proper read by Pryor, keeps, does a great job of
bouncing—comes up to Brown so he commits, and then bounces.  12 yd
1st-10:  Gun Trey tight (2 x 2) strong right.  Mich 3-3-5 ‘eagle’.  1
high middle of field.  Mich again structurally unsound.  Only has 3
guys on OSU’s boundary side to OSU’s 4—just asking for this ball to be
bounced outside.  Zone read left.  Very nice seal block by
Stoneburner, great job by Cordle locking up his guy.  Good job by Boom
bouncing outside, big 25 yd gain.
1st-Goal:  at the 3:  Tight I wing left.  Mich Goalline 6-2 tight.
Iso left.  The hole is there, but Stoney takes a bad angle to cut off
Graham and he comes in from the backside to make the play -2 yards.
2d-Goal:  Double tight wing.  Mich-5-3 under.  Fake sweep left, boot
right.  Flood combo.  No one touches Graham and he comes straight up
and makes the play.  Stoneburner was open on the flag, but no chance
to get him the ball.  5 yd loss
3d-Goal.  Gun trey left (11) weak.  Mich 3-3-5.  0 high.  Mich brings
8.  Inside screen to Boom.  Great job by Pryor.  Nice composure and
nice touch to put that ball over the top.  TD.

1st-10:  Gun fly motion to trips right, strong right.  Mich.  4-3 over
tight to field.  1 high.  Would have gone for a lot of yards, but
Cordle gets beat by Brandon Graham, so Boren has to chip on him,
losing our lead blocker on the backer.  6 yd gain.
2d-4:  Gun trey right strong.  Mich 4-3 over to boundary.  1 high.
Zone read left.  Good read by Pryor.  Picture perfect zone double team
and chip by Brewster and Boren.  Double team until Brewster got his
helmet playside, then Boren goes to the LBer and drives him  5 yds
back, creating a crease for Boom.  1st down.    Great job by those
1st-10:  Gun trey right strong.  Mich-4-3 over to boundary.  1 high.
Zone read left.  Browning leaves the backside 3 technique too early,
but Boom does a really nice job of being patient and making two nice
cuts through small creases for 5.
2d-4:  I tight right.  Mich 3-3-5:  CB over TE-9 in the box.  1 high.
ISO left.  Boren and Browning can’t chip off the double team.  Decent
hole outside, but Boom doesn’t see it and runs up Browning’s back.  1
yd gain.
3d-2:  Gun trey right.  Mich:  4-3 over plus to boundary.  2 high.
Zone read left.  Pryor keeps.  Michigan does a scrape exchange, but
Ballard does a really nice job of coming off his block to block the
scraping LBer and Pryor outruns the DE.  1st down.  5 yd gain
1st-10:  Zone read left-1st down but illegal shift.
1st-15:  Gun trips left strong left.  Mich in 4-3 over to boundary
(structurally unsound, could kill them with speed option right here).
G-block right by Brewster (pulls around).  Herron unnecessarily
strings it out, 2 yd gain.
2d-13:  I twins left.  Mich 3-5-3.  1 high.  Dave play pass left,
smash left.    Posey is open but Pryor takes too long to get him the
ball.  Then Posey steps out of bounds instead of getting 2 more yards.
 3 yd gain.
3d-8:  Gun ace left weak.  Mich 4-3 over 2 high.  Dropback.  Z out/up
combo.  Saine missed his assignment.  Line slid left but he went left,
leaving 88 unblocked.  He sits though because he’s concerned about
Pryor scrambling around him (he still could have).  Posey is open on
the fly route, Pryor just overthrows him.
Fourth Possession-21-10.  OSU 11
1st-10:  Tight I left.  Mich 4-3 under, boundary corner walked up over
TE, 2 high.  Dave right.   Mich slants away.  Big hole outside.  Boren
misses the ILB pulling, but Saine misses a huge hole outside, might
still be running.  1 yd gain.
2d-9:  Gun tight (2 x 2) trey left strong.  Mich 4-3 under.  2 high.
Zone read right.  Pryor should have kept, huge hole outside.  Saine
tries to cut back out there, but can’t quite get there.
3d-6”  Gun trey right stron.  Mich 4-3 under. 2 high.  Zone read left.
 Big hole up the middle.  Really nice job by Shugarts of recovering
and getting on Graham.  If Pryor goes right up the field he gets the
first.  As is, he is a half yard short.

Fifth Possession:   OSU 21-10.  OSU 19
1st-10:  Gun trips left.  Mich 4-3 over.  Sweep right.  Nice down
block by Shugarts and Ballard.  Boom does a good job of following
behind Browning, picks up 5.
2d-5:  Gun tight trey left.  Mich 4-3 under, with LBers way
overshifted to field.  3 high.  Zone read left.  Nice read by Pryor,
end crashed down, but Michigan is doing a scrap exchange almost with
their safety playing run support.  Pryor runs him over though.  5 yd
3d-1:  QB sneak
1st-10:  Unbalanced I left.  Mich 3-5-3.  1 high.  Dave left.
Browning never gets pulled around.  Hole outside but Boom sees it too
late, the playside backer is able to shoot the gap.  1 yd
2d-9:  Gun trips right.  Sweep left.  Ballard is blown up into the
backfield by Graham, preventing any opportunity for a play.  Loss of
3d-13:  Unbalanced tight bunch right w/ a WR outside.  Mich 4-3 under.
 2 high.  Fake zone right, boot run left.  Not the time to fool them
with the run fake.  Graham comes straight up the field, beats
Ballard’s half hearted block attempt, and tackles Pryor for a loss.
Fifth Possession:  Mich 45.  21-10.
1st-10:  Tight I left.  Mich 4-3 under 1 high.  Dave right.  Mich
safeties were playing cover 4 and flying up.  Nice bounce outside by
Saine.  Hold on Boren.
1d-22:  Fumbled snap by Pryor.
2d-22:  Tight I left.  Mich 4-3 under.  3 high.  Dave fake rollout run
left.  Great block by Sanzenbacher, decleats Brown on the crackback.
Pryor is able to get outside for 16, but outruns Browning and can’t
get enough for the 1st.  16 yd gain.
3d-5:  Unbalanced twins right.  Mich 4-3 under cover 4.  Fake Dave
right rollout run right.  There was a hole behind Boren pulling for 4
if Pryor hits it right away but tries to string it out.  Then runs
across the field, ends up with 2.
4th-3:  Unbalanced twins right:  Mich 4-3 under 1 high.  Dave play
pass right.  This was an actual called pass.  I think he has Posey on
the flag route.  Instead tries to run it back across the grain and
almost makes it.  Turnover on downs.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Michigan Game Quick Thoughts

  • Regardles of how it looked, it was another big victory on the road against Michigan.  How many people before the Penn State game thought Ohio State was going to win out to win the outright Big Ten Title???
  • Very nice job by the offensive coaches adjusting.  Michigan put 8-9 guys in the box against our pro style formations.  So OSU goes shotgun, 2 tight, and ran zone read up and down the field against Michigan.   They had a nice wrinkle blocking that play, leaving the backside '5' technique unblocked, while having the backside TE establish the edge on the nickel back.
  • Terrelle Pryor changed that game offensively with the threat of his legs.  Once he started making plays Michigan could not consistently stop Ohio State again.  I guess we counted out 'spread' type plays from OSU too soon.  Pryor's passing statistics might not be huge, but he controlled that game with his feet and that was the difference.  If he hits even one of those two open deep passes down the field that game blows wide open.  He needs to put a little more air under those throws.  
  • I've criticized so I will give props--that was Boom Herron's best game.  He did a nice job being patient while still running hard.  
  • Defensively, there was some bend but don't break.  That is the type of offense Michigan runs, though, they want to take 5 yard horizontal chunks at a time.  But then OSU completely shut down the Michigan running game in the second half, and  it was only a matter of time before they made  plays against Forcier.  The defense, as usual, was opportunistic.
  • Field position really hamstrung OSU this game.  I do not have the statistics in front of me, but I would guess that Michigan's average starting position was about 20 yards better.  The punting game hurt us again today.  This resulted in the offense having to put together some long drives.   OSU also shot themselves in the foot with inopportune penalties, botched snaps and the like. 
  • As usual, the 4th Quarter's conservatism with a lead leaves a 'what if' feeling and masks the good things Ohio State did offensively this game.  They came out throwing, but in essence, Pryor's outside running has become the equivalent of the passing game.  They want to run up the middle and then spring big plays outside with Pryor.  It's similar in that way to what option teams try to do.  Schematically, nice job with the counter runs out of the spread, as well as the 3d down screen pass--and that was a very nice throw by Pryor.  If they hit those plays down field it completely changes the game's complexion.  But when OSU gets a lead Tressel is simply not going to tet Pryor throw the ball is instead content to count on Pryor and the tailbacks to run it (though that was a pass call on 4th and 3 that Pryor did not throw).
  • Another game with over 220 yards rushing--it is very hard for teams to beat you if you can run the ball and play defense like Ohio State is.  It will keep them in any game and give them a good chance to win the Rose Bowl.

Ohio State vs Michigan Preview

Everyone--Sorry that I'm late with this--but at least it will fresh in everyone's minds before the game!


RUN GAME:  Michigan, along with Oregon, are what I consider "pure spread-run teams."  That means they not only are shotgun, but that their run game is based almost entirely around the inside and outside zone read, unlike, say Florida, who runs a lot of power plays.  For Michigan, though, they are going to focus on running their outside zone read and inside zone read. (h/t: mgoblog).

There is lots of great material on Michigan's offense.  Rich Rodriguez discusses his run game here and here.  MGoBlog has a good breakdown here.  Relatedly, here is a good piece on the Oregon offense, whose run game is very similar.

Michigan has, at times this year, also lined up in the I with Brandon Minor, particularly ins short yardage situations.  But with him being doubtful for the game, it is likely they will focus exclusively on the spread.

An offense almost entirely reliant on the zone read puts a lot of pressure on the Quarterback, both to make the right read and make plays with his feet.  Forcier has been inconsistent with both.  MGoBlog has repeatedly discussed how Forcier has made incorrect zone reads.  And, while he is slippery in short yardage, Forcier does not have the speed to be a true run threat.  Robinson is a greater threat, but he is very unpolished-Michigan often just calls lead sweeps with him in the game.

Ohio State will likely throw a lot of 'scrape exchanges' at Michigan to confuse these Quarterbacks.  At base, a scrape exchange is where the backside DE and LB change responsibilities to confuse the QB's read.  The QB will see the DE crash down and keep, but then the OLB will be there for contain.

Ohio State has also gone to a 3-4 "half under, half bear" defense partially for the very purpose of attacking zone read teams.  It puts Gibson and Spitler standing up at the end of the LOS where they can use their athleticism to make plays.

And, of course in defending zone read teams, it helps to have athletes like that on the edge who can commit down to take away the zone gap, and still be athletic enough to make plays.


Michigan does not have what you would call a  'conceptually sophisticated' passing game.  By that I mean that it is almost entirely a 3-step drop passing game and does not really attack coverages downfield.  Michigan will mostly throw quick hitches and slants off of zone action and then occassionally throw a smash route.  So you will see a lot of this:

They also like running a sprint out game and moving the pocket.   Part of this also has to do with their personnel.  Neither of their Quarterbacks have great arms or shown the ability to be dropback, NFL style passers--Forcier seems best when he is in space improvising.  Nor do they have the line to protect, or the receivers to stretch defenses, so they are limited in what they can do.

For this game Michigan will have to get creative to move the football.  This is particularly true if their best player, Brandon Minor, does not play.  Last year Michigan had some success early running the outside zone right at Gibson--look for them to try that again--though Gibson is far better at the point of attack this year.  Look for them also to try find creative ways to get Denard Robinson and their 'scat backs' the balls in space.  Michigan will likely run a lot of quick passing game and screens to try to negate Ohio State's talent advantage, soften up the defense, and make a big play.  Then they will likely try and go to their zone read game.  If Ohio State plays fundamentally sound and does not get pulled out of position Michigan will have to work for every yard.  As MGoBlog discusses, OSU will likely do what they did to Penn State and others--play six in the box with two deep safeties, dare Michigan to run, and count on their front six to be better than Michigan's.  

Michigan Defense

There is no other word to describe Michigan's defense besides bad, both in scheme execution and personnel.

These are the scores for Michigan's last four games and Wisconsin's drives in the Second Half:

October 24
No. 13 Penn State
L 35-10
5-3 (1-3)
October 31
at Illinois
L 38-13
5-4 (1-4)
November 7
L 38-36
5-5 (1-5)
November 14
at No. 20 Wisconsin
L 45-24
5-6 (1-6)

WIS 20
Passing Touchdown
WIS 35
Passing Touchdown
WIS 40
Rushing Touchdown
WIS 30
Field Goal Good

Schematically, Michigan is essentially running a 4-3 under with a stand-up backside end, making it look like a 3-4.  Chris Brown has a great read on it here.  In a lot of ways it is similar to what OSU does.  As the season has gone on though, Michigan has gone to more of a 4-4 look, which could also be called a 3-5-3.  Basically, they are bringing what would be their backside safety up into the box.  Essentially, 4-3 under teams that play cover 1, like USC have their backside safety responsible for run support. Michigan has just started showing it more explicitly in a (vain) attempt to stop the run.

And Michigan does in fact play a lot of 'cover 1 robber' behind it.  Penn State was able to repeatedly exploit this with smash routes.  (Video curteosy of MGoBlog).

It will be interesting to see what kinds of coverage Michigan plays today.  Teams that have tried to play forms of man coverage versus Ohio State have gotten burned by Terrelle Pryor's running ability, most famously here:

I expect Michigan to fall back into more zone coverages for that reason.

Michigan's primary problem, though, is their personnel.  MGoBlog had a great two part series on how recruiting, attrition, and talent development has decimated Michigan's defense.  Their line is undersized, their linebackers play extremely undisciplined, and their safeties are not talented.  As MGoBlog discusses here, Wisconsin killed Michigan with play action all day, drawing up the inside linebackers and throwing over the top of them.  (You can also see that in the clip above).

Brandon Graham is the only difference maker on that defense and has played at an exceptionally high level all year, especially when considering the talent surrounding him.  Expect Ohio State to handle Graham similar to what they did with Adam Clayburn last week:  have running backs and TE's chip on Graham and/or stay in to give Cordle some help.  This is the one matchup where Michigan could create problems for OSU.  Other than that, expect Ohio State to take advantage of the Michigan defense's poor discipline and talent levels.  Like Wisconsin, Ohio State will likely dial up play action off their inside runs to get Posey running deep in the secondary.  Relatedly, they will likely also do more misdirection, both in the forms of counters and bootlegs.  We have seen more of this as the season has progressed and I expect to see more here.  Then, I think Ohio State will settle back into the power run game that has been so successful the last two weeks.  Ohio State followed a similar pattern of starting out the game throwing and then turning to the run against Iowa.  Look for a similar gameplan here.  The difference, though, is that Ohio State will be able to hit plays downfield off of play action when they were not able to against Iowa.  Look for Michigan to have a lot of difficulty stopping Ohio State and a big game from Terrelle Pryor. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

OSU v Iowa-Offensive Breakdown and Play-by-Play: Updated

I think the Iowa game offensively is an example where the behavioral economics principle of recency applies:  the last few series negatively color peoples' judgments about the offenses' performance.  I will dissect it here.

1.  Ohio State came out throwing the ball.  On the first two possession OSU:
  • Called pass plays on 7 of 8 plays.  
  • Threw on the first three first downs.
  • Those 7 plays only gained  2.571 yds per pass attempt
  • And the the two biggest gainers that added buffeted that 2.571 yards were Pryor scrambles
  • OSU punted twice.
2.  Clearly, Ohio State expected Iowa to defend them differently then they did.  But instead Iowa stuck to their base "2-high" cover 2 philosophy.   That meant that no matter how many receivers OSU put on the field, Iowa would extend linebackers out to those receivers and keep their 2 deep safeties.  Here are two examples:

More after the jump

This meant that no matter what Ohio State did, they had a numbers advantage "in the box."  Moreover, Iowa played their 2 deep zone as effectively as they had all year and OSU's receiver were rarely, if ever, open downfield.  For example, one thing a cover 2 corner does is jam and reroute wide receivers at the line of scrimmage to prevent them from attacking weak spots in a cover 2.  And, as DontHateOState discussed on the Scout "Ask the Insiders" site, Iowa effectively did that to our Wide Receivers.  For example (and not to single him out, as he was not the only one) watch Devier Posey get rerouted out of bounds at the top of the screen:

UPDATED:  As a side note, I wanted to say a word about Ohio State's passing concepts.  Many have often complained about the lack of sophistication to Ohio State's passing game.  I will again say that I did not see that this game.  As DontHateOState points out, the pass to Dane in the 5-wide above is a 'scat' concept.

(H/T:  Brophy).  It is similar to the spacing concept I have discussed here before, but puts more responsibility on the WR and QB to read the zone correctly.  As DontHate states, this shows the Coaching staff's confidence in Pryor to run this play.   Ohio State also did a nice job designing concepts to hi-lo the cover 2 zone.  Here, they have Saine release into the flat, holding the no. 2 zone defender to allow Posey to get behind him:

Finally, Ohio State ran quite a few 'hi-lo' routes, likely designed to hold the dropping linebackers and sneak the shallow crossing receiver underneath.

(H/T:  SmartFootball).   This is a bit of an aside, but it does demonstrate that Ohio State, while perhaps conservative, does attack defenses with the passing game in sophisticated ways when it does pass. 

2.  Going back to the Iowa 2 deep and the resulting numbers, this defense gave Ohio State a numbers' advantage in "the box" to run the ball.  And while it is overly simplistic, as a general point, if a team is going to give you a numbers advantage in the box you should run .  And Ohio State successfully did so.  Starting with the third possession, Ohio State's had drives for 73 and 74, 79, 49, and 30 yards.  The fact they did so primarily running is neither good nor bad--it was taking what the defense was giving them and being successful doing so.

Within this run-first philosophy Ohio State did some really nice things to take advantage of what Iowa likes to do on defense.  Iowa's primary run stopping formation is a 4-3 under, as it is generally stronger on the strongside.  Several times Ohio State therefore set up their formation like they would run strongside, and then ran inside zone to the weakside with Z. Boren coming on the strongside Mike.

But because Iowa likes to keep their two-deep safeties, they will go to a 4-3 over against certain sets so they can widen out their weakside linebacker and still keep two deep safeties.  Ohio State used this to their advantage with two formations that guaranteed Iowa would move to this set.  The first was simply running a 'twins' formation.

The second was taking out the TE and using 3 wide receivers with an I formation backfield.

Ohio State also ran far more ISO and lead zone and far less Dave then I have seen them do, taking advantage of ISOing up on linebackers with a spread out defense.  In sum, within a 'conservative' gameplan, Ohio State did a lot of nice things to open up running lanes and be successful.

3. As for the last three drives I have separate thoughts on each of them:
  • The Missed FG Drive:  I believe Ohio State got too complacent here.  What may be forgotten is that Ohio State's line opened huge holes on this drive--Ohio State ran the ball for 2 first downs.  In fact, but for missed cuts by Herron, Ohio State might have had another long touchdown run.  But, because of this, I think Ohio State could have sprung a playaction pass on 1st or 2d down for a potential big play before kicking the field goal.  This is the drive that I believe is souring some people's opinions of the playcalling and I do not disagree this was a potentially wasted opportunity.
  • The Two Minute Drive:  Ohio State largely saved Pryor's running ability for this situation.  They called a Dave bootleg run that gained yards.  They then ran the play that had saved up-Pryor keeping off of the fake of the split back outside zone play.  But Iowa did not bite on this and held Pryor in check.  From there, Ohio State tried to pass, but did not or could not get the ball downfield.  It was pretty clear here that Tressel did not want an interception and did not believe OSU could get open downfield against Iowa's 2-deep.  This decision is not irrational, considering Ohio State was the home team with better talent and thus overtime was not the worst situation, particularly because the one favorable matchup for Iowa was their pass defense versus OSU's pass offense.
  • Overtime:  Here, I think Tressel's playcalling is pretty rational.  All they need is a medium range field goal, why risk a turnover, which is the only way you don't get the opportunity for the win?  This is especially true in light of the fact that Ohio State's offense would get the ball back right away if they miss.  So in overtime 2 they would have had to open things up to go for the touchdown, anyway, so its smart to play for the initial field goal and then go from there.
3.  Despite this, I think the criticism of the offense at the exclusion of the other units against Iowa is the wrong focus.  Ohio State scored two touchdowns in the second half to go up 24-10, gained 322 yards total offense and controlled the ball for nearly 34 minutes.   But for the special teams and defense each giving up a touchdown in the Fourth Quarter this is not a close game.  The defense generally did not have their best game until it counted--if the defense turns in their typical performance, the game is a blowout.  I would argue that the offense's performance--whatever style they played--was the primary reason Ohio State won this game.

4.  The Offensive Line continues to perform at a very high level.  The amount of movement they are getting at the LOS of scrimmage is something we have not seen from an OSU line in the recent past.  Watch Ohio State move the pile in the 'twins clip.'  Boren, Browning, and Shugarts in particular are really starting to open up some holes--I think this was Shugarts best game.

Zach Boren also deserves praise.  I do not know if I have ever seen someone improve so much in one season.  Re-watch the clips again.  In those and other plays he completely drives the Inside Linebackers back.  Those linebackers likely left that game with their heads ringing.  I think one of the underrated aspects of Ohio State going back to the I formation is his improvement-he is certainly one of the best 11 players on offense.
5.  And, in my opinion, Ohio State is running the ball this well without a lot of help from their tailback a majority of the carries.  I think Boom Herron is a very good leader, does a lot of the 'little things right' and I do not mean to repeatedly criticize him.  But I do think that he is not a protypical tailback, misses holes, and leaves opportunities the line is providing on the field.  I think Ohio State probably left another 75-100 yards on the field versus Iowa. 

6.  Regardless, it is very impressive that Ohio State has been able to rush for 200+ yards against two good defenses.  As Tressel has discussed in the past, generally when you run for over 200 yards your team wins.  As others have said, if Ohio State can run the ball this well with the defense they have, they will be a tough out for any Pac-10 Bowl Team.

The Play-by-Play Below:

1st-10:  TE motion to Ace right.  Iowa -4-3 under, 2 high.  Fake zone
left, boot right.  Throws to Ballard in the flat, 4 yd gain.  Sam LBer
was in face immediately.  Nice read by Pryor.  Good tackle by Iowa
2d-6:  Shotgun trips left.  Lead draw right.    Good initial hole, but
Clayborn stalemates Cordle and is then able to come off of him to make
the play.  Saine needed to hit the hole harder.
3d-3:  Shotgun 4 wide.  Iowa is in a 4-1, LBers over the slot
receivers, 2 high (why not run here, only 5 in the box).  Dropback.
Cover 2.  In/Curl routes.  Swing pass to Saine-a little quick on this.
 Saine should have just kept running for the corner, instead tried to
cut back and tackled.
SECOND POSSESSION-0-0.  Starting position.  Own 12
1st-10:  3 wide I twins left.  Iowa.  4-3 over.  2 high.  Dave rollout
pass left.  Plenty of time, Posey and Sanzenbacher are blanketed.
Nice throw by Pryor late, Dane should have caught it.
2d-10:   I twins left.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 deep.  Lead zone right.  Big
initial hole.  M. Hall let the 5 technique slide across his face,
Saine sort of quit running in the hole.  4 yard gain.
3d-6:  Gun trips left 4 wide.  Iowa  4-2 nickel 2 high:  Dropback.
Looks like an all curl route. Ballard chips on Clayborn initially then
releases.  Both Des beat their man, really nice run by Pryor straight
up the field for a 1st down.
1st-10:  I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 high.  Quick screen to Posey.
 Posey dances back and forth instead of just immediately running
outside.  Would have gotten 5 yds instead of 2.
2d-8:  Gun ace left, halfback weak.  Iowa 4-3 under.  Dropback.  5 man
route.  Good protection, plenty of time.  ‘Drive’ crossing pattern.
Posey ran an in while Ballard crossed deep,  Sanz and Small ran pivot
routes. Posey was open, Pryor read it correctly but just led him too
3d-8:  Gun Ace right.  Iowa nickel 2 high.  Basically the same pattern
with the routes flipped.   Claybourn beats Cordle-Saine is supposed to
chip but completely whiffed.  Pryor has a nice scramble and makes the
right decision to eat the ball.  5 yd gain.

THIRD POSSESSION:  Iowa 3-0.   Own 15
1st-10:  3 wide I twins right.  Iowa nickel 2 high.  Iso left.  Great
lead block by Z. Boren, completely manhandles the LBer.  Great block
by Cordle on the outside.   Terrible run by Herron.  Missed the hole,
then tried to cut back, then tripped over himself.  Turned a 12 yd run
into a 4 yd run.
2d-6:  I weak twins right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 deep.  Toss outside zone
right.  The NG drives Brewster back into the play.  Boom should have
gone outside, instead runs right up into traffic, 2 yd gain.
3d-4:  Gun empty 5 wide, trips right.  Iowa-4 guys in the box, head up
on each receiver, 2 high.  Dropback.  Nice job by Shugarts at RT
stalemating his guy.  Nice option route by Sanz, good throw by Pryor
for 5.
1st-10:  I strong right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Zone left, with
Boren blocking on the Mike. Nice job this game of running to the
weakside away from the under.  Good blocking at the POA.  Browning
drove his guy back, creating a nice hole, and Z. Boren blew up the
Mike LBer.  Nice cut this time by Boom who finds the crease for 5.
2d-5:  I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 deep.  OSU also doing a nice
job of using twins to dictate that Iowa go to 4-3 under.   Lead ISO
left.  No initial hole but then Boom Herron and Boren, Browning, and
Shugarts drive Iowa another 10 yards.  Great run.
1st-10:  3 wide I twins right.  Iowa 4-2 nickel.  2 high.  Lead Iso
left.  Z. Boren just destroys the Will LBer again.  Nice drive block
by J. Boren.  If Cordle could hold his block a fraction longer, then
Herron goes another 6 yards.  Some definite drive blocking going on.
2d-5:  Gun 4 wide-trips right.  Iowa 4-1 2 high.  (Use picture to
show).  Dave left.    The NG slipped off Boren, but nice cut outside
by Boom for 7.
1st-10:  Unbalanced twins right.  Iowa-4-3 over to the unbalanced.
Dave right.  Dave right.  Good initial hole, But the DT came off
Browning and Brewster’s combo when they both went to the 2d level-bad
communication.  2 yd gain.
2d-9:  Gun trips right.  Iowa 4-3 under double a gap.  2 high.  Zone
left fake bubble screen. The backside 5 technique came unblocked down
the line.  1 yd gain
3d-8:  Gun ace h-back left.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 deep.  Dropback.  Good
initial protection.  Clayburn throws Ballard but too late.  Hi-lo
Out/Flat route with a seam route.  The LBer comes up on the flat
route, opening the out behind it.  Nice throw by Pryor, 16 yd gain.
1st-10:  Ace wing.   right:  Iowa  4-3 under.  Dave right.  Big
initial hole.  Nice down block by Ballard.  Good kick out by Boren.
J. Boren missed the hole too far inside, leaving the SAM backer
unblocked.  Still a 4 yd gain.
2d-6:  false start
2d-11:  Ace wing right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Fake zone left, half
boot right.  Tons of time.  Nice job by Cordle on the back side.  No
one open.  Pryor checks down to Saine in the flat.  Nice run by Saine,
8 yd gain.
3d-3:  Gun 10 personnel trips right.  Iowa 4-1 2 high.  Dropback, good
protection.  “Shallow-In route” by OSU.  Flat, drag, in.  Decent read
by Pryor to Saine.  First down.
1st-10:  “Wildcat”-strong Wingback right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.
Dave rigiht.  Blocked well at the POA but backside
penetration-Browning whiffed.  Herron got past the guy, though, for a
3 yd gain.
2d-7:  Istrong right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Zone right.  Huge
cutback hole on the backside behind Shugarts and Z. Boren, but Herron
misses the hole and tries to go outside.  1 yd gain.
3d-6:  Gun trey left.  Iowa-4-3 nickel-walk down and come with a
corner blitz.  Mesh route against man coverage.  Line picked it up but
no one open.  Pryor throws it to the corner for Posey, incomplete.  At
least he threw it where it was going to be out of bounds or a catch.

1st-10:  Ace wing right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Dave right .  Bad
blockback by Brewster-got his head too far across, and the 2i
technique came off him and made the tackle.  3 yd gain.
2d-7:  I weak twins left.  Iowa 4-3 under with a double A-gap.  Nice
job by Brewster and Boren neutralizing it.   Zone right.  Boren
blocking up on the backside LBer.  Big cutback hole for Herron, 6 yd
3d-1:  Tight I left.  Iowa 4-3 under 1 high.  Iso right.  Good job by
Brewster and J. Boren neutralizing their guys, nice cut by Boom for
the 1st down.
1st-10:  Gun split backs 3 wide.  Iowa 4-3 under.  Outside zone right.
 Not much of a hole, nice job by Herron sticking his pads down and
driving for 4 yds.
2d-6:  I-3 wide twins left.  Iowa nickel double A gap.  2 high.  Iso
right.  Big cutback hole.  Nice blocks at the POA.  Great block by Z.
Boren and then really nice job by the 3 inside guys locking their men
up.  Good vision by Saine.  10 yd gain.
1st-10:  3 wide.  I twins right.  Iowa nickel double A gap.  Iso
right.  Iowa twisted inside and Boren and Brewster missed it.  Strung
out the play for 2 yds.  Horsecollar  15 yd penalty
1st-10:  Shotgun-3 wide twins right split backs.  Iowa 4-3 over 2
high.  Dropback.  All curl route.  Good pocket-Brewster got beat a bit
but drove him out of the play. Posey gets absolutely rerouted and
driven out of bounds.  Nice throw for a first down.  12 yd gain.
1st-10:  Gun-3 wide twins left split backs.  Iowa 4-2 nickel 2 high.
Then they sneak up and bring 2 to the boundary (away from Saine).
Great cut by Saine seeing the blitz and cutting right up field past
the NG.  GREAT downfield block by Dane, enabling the TD.  22 yd TD
1st-10:  I twins left.  Iowa-4-3 over 2 high.  Fake zone left, half
boot right.  Nice blocking, until Brewster ole’s the the NG.  Pryor
stiffarms the DE but gets 3.
2d-12:  I twins left.  ISO left.
3d-12:  Ace H-Back left.  Draw.  No hole.

1st-10:  3 wide I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 high.  Lead zone left.
 Good push by the Boren brothers, Cordle couldn’t sustain his block,
Clayburn makes the tackle.  3 yd gain.
2d-7:  Wildcat strong Wingback right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 high.  Dave
right.  Nice downblock by Boren and Stoneburner.  Hard run by Saine
for 6 yds.
3d-1:  I tight right.  Iso left.   Good blocking at the POA.  Boren
gets a good down block.  Saine has the first down and then fumbles
short of the line.
1st-10:  Ace trips right.  Iowa-nickel 2 high.  Lead draw right.
Small seam that Boom finds but then trips up for 4.  Ballard and
Browning do a nice job of sealing the traffic inside of them.
2d-6:    I 3 wide twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over.  ISO right.  Great
downblock by Browning, but the Mike loops around untouched and as able
to tackle Boom for 3.
3d-3:  Gun 4 wide trips left.  Iowa 4-1 two high.  Dropback.  ‘Drive
crossing route.”  Pryor panicked and started running around backwords,
rather than staying in the pocket.  Sacked for a loss of 12.  The
pocket was there but Pryor ran right into Clayburn.
1st-10:  Ace trey right.  Iowa -4-3 under double A gap.  2 high.  Fake
zone left, waggle right. Flood right.   Good time, hits Dane on a
hitch route.  8 yd gain.
2d-3:  Wildcat Strong wingback right.  Dave right.  Nothing there, but
Boom lowers his head and gets 4.
1st-10:  Ace WB right.  Iowa 4-3 under 2 hight.  Dave right.  Shugarts
and Z. Boren get stalemated, enough of a crease for Herron to get 4.
2d-6:   Shotgun Ace left.  Dropback.  Good protection.  Hits Ballard
on the switch clearing out underneath drag.  17 yd gain.
1st-10:  Tight I left.  Fake Zone right.  Corner-out route.  Set up
for Stoneburner, but Clayburn gets free in Pryor’s face.  Cordle gets
locked up with Clayburn under his shoulder pads, not the position you
want to be in as a olineman.  Pryor scrambles for 2 yds.
2d-8:  Shotgun trips right Halfback stron.  Iowa 4-1 2 deep.  Trap
left.  Good kickout by Browning.  Nice initial hole for 5.
3d-3:  10 personnel-shotgun trips right.  Iowa 4-1 2 high.  Drag,
pivot route.  Clayburn beat Cordle on a speed rush.  Pryor scrambles
and hits Carter sitting outside off the pivot route.   Nice job by
Pryor.  10 yd gain.
1st-10:  Shotgun 3 wide twins left split backs.  Iowa nickel 2 high.
Outside zone right.  Small hole but Boom just danced in the backfield
and lost 5.  Missed a small hole where he could have got 3.  It was at
this point where if Pryor kept he would have had a big gain.
2d-15:  Shotgun ace H-back left.  Dropback.  Nice job by Cordle
punching Clayburn.  Ballard chips Clayburn then releases into the
flat.  Pryor checks down to him-3 yd gain.
3d-10:  Shotgun Ace right.  Iowa nickel 2 high.  QB draw.  Great run
by Pryor.  Gets right upfield and makes a cut and makes a guy miss.
Great block by Ballard faking the crossing route.  Just a great run.
19 yd gain.
1st-10:  Wildcat strong wing right.  Iowa -4-3 under 1 high.  Dave
right.  Nice cut by Boom to bounce outside and then outrun Iowa’s
safeties.  Good job by Z. Boren neutralizing at the POA.  TD.

1st-10:  I twins right:  Iowa 4-3 under.  1 high.  Iso right.  Picture
perfect blocking at the POA.  Downblock by J. Boren and ISO by Z.
Boren.  Nice job by Corle and Ballard neutralizing their guys.  Great
block by Cordle driving Clayburn back and then great cut and burst by
Saine.   TD

1st-10:  I twins left.  Iowa 4-3 over 2 high.  Lead Iso right.  Big
initial hole.  Great control at POA by Browning.  Boom didn’t follow
his blocker, though, and then cut too late.  No gain.
2d-10:  Ace bunch right.  Iowa 4-3 under.  Dave right.  HUGE hole.
Ballard and Shugarts created a huge lane.  Great blocking by Shugarts.
 Boom turned what should have been a 15 yd gain into an 8 yd gain.
Missed the cut and then went down way too easy.  It could have been a
possible td.
3d-2:  Ace bunch right.  Dave right.  Huge hole.  Boren pulls through
and roadgrades his guy.  Boom is going down before he even gets hit.
He puts his head down so much he has very little balance.  Another
possible TD that he blows.  8 yd gain.
1st-10:  Ace tight bunch right.  Iowa in 4-3 under.  1 high.  Brewster
whiffed blocking back on the 3 technique.  Came down the line and made
the play.  No gain.
2d-11:   gun 3 wide ace right.  Dave right.  Big hole outside, should
have been bounced.  Browning passed up a guy to go to the second
level, made the play.  2 yd gain.
3d-8:  Ace bunch right.  Dave right.  Huge hole to the right.  Cordle
gets beat but just horrible running by Boom Herron.  Didn’t go to the
hole and stopped his feet.  Just really, really bad.
4th-Missed FG

1st-10:  I twins right.  Iowa 4-3 over, 2 high.   Fake Dave rollout
called run right.   Boren gets a little too deep so Pryor has to wait
on him.    Still a good 9 yd gain.
2d-1:  Tight I left.  Iowa -4-3 under to strong side.  ISO right.
Small hole, nice cut by Boom for the first.
1st-10:  3 wide gun split backs.  4-3 over.    Fake outside zone, read
left.  Iowa for the first time all game played this fake.  Nice play
by Pryor just to get around both defenders for 2 yds.
2d-8:  4 wide gun trips.  Iowa 4-1 two deep.  Dropback pivot route to
Small.  Great tackle by the Iowa corner.  If he doesn’t make the
tackle Small is going down the sideline for at least another 10 yards.
3d-5:  Gun 3 wide, split backs.  Iowa 4-3 over.  Iowa 2 deep.  Iowa
plays a perfect 2 deep, everyone is completely covered.  Pryor swings
the ball to Herron, tackled in the open field.

1st-10:  Unbalanced I right.  Lead zone right.  The 5 technique goes
inside on Shugarts and he misses.  2 yd loss.
2d-12:  Tight I left.  Iowa Goaline 5-3.  Lead zone right.  Boom
misses the hole—there is a huge hole around right end, but at least
cuts back to the middle of the field.  2 yd gain.
3d-10:  Tight I left.  Lead ISO left.  Boren creates a big hole, but
then Cordle leaves Clayburn, and then whiffs at the second level.  3
yd gain.
4th:  FG-WE WIN!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Quick Iowa Post-Game Thoughts

Wow-a great game, I had a lot of thoughts on this one, so I'll kick it off right away. 

1.  First and foremost my hats off to Iowa.  I will be the first to admit that I severely underestimate d them.  IMO they are the best team we played this year.  They are just so solid in all facets.  Kirk Ferentz is a great coach, bar none.  They are the most fundamentally sound team you will see.  Their offensive line is really, really good and they had a great gameplan.  They attacked passing the ball with primarily the 3 step drop, a la Purdue, and then took their shots off of half bootlegs.  Their linebackers and secondary are so sound and discplined in their zone coverages, they take away anything down the field.  You can tell how well they've coached up their young QB-he stands tall in the pocket and goes through his reads.  So you have to tip your hats to them.

2.  I also tip my hat to the OSU offensive line.  Remember when we had problems gaining third and shorts?  That never happens anymore.  We have become a rushing behemoth.  We have rushed for 500 odd yards against two of the better teams in the Big Ten.  Once Shugarts came in the running game took off and it never stopped.  They are really gelling together as a unit and are just so strong up the middle.  OSU has basically rode them the last two games.

3.  I was at the game so I had a viewpoint on this that many did not.  Our receivers DID NOT get open all game.  There was a reason Ballard and the Running backs had 7-10 catches between them.  Pryor was doing a nice job of reading down his progressions.  Iowa played their cover 2 and our receivers could not get any separation from them.  IMO its the primary reason we passed as little as we did. 

4.  With points 2 and 3 in mind I will say here:  I had almost 0 problems with the playcalling.  The one drive I did not like was the one we missed a field goal.  It was too complacent.  And that was as much about the game situation as anything else--OSU couldn't count on sitting on the lead because Iowa was moving the ball the whole game.  But other than that I have little problems with it.  Who cares how many times you run the ball if you're gaining yards???  You keep running until they stop you.  That is especially true when Iowa is doing what they are doing--which is playing 2 deep safeties and taking away anything down the field.  In those situations you have to run the ball.  Remember how we came out the first few possessions and threw on first down??? Well our receivers were not getting open so we were not moving the ball.  If they are going to play 7 in the box then you better keep running.  And the play calling was pretty varied.  We ran quite a few counters, draws, and a lot of playaction and bootlegging--all the things you have to do to have a solid run game.   The 'wildcat' formation for lack of a better word has actually turned out to be pretty effective.  The line just gets such a good vertical push running the power play out of it because it can hit so quick. 

I think a coach's responsibility is to figure out what his team does best build your gameplan about that.  Well right now OSU is a very good inside running team.  There's not a reason to go away from that unless they force you to.

5.  I think Pryor played really well.  His stats may not be great, but he made great decisions.  He did not force throws when the receivers were not open as he has in the past.  In the past he may have had several interceptions in a game like this by forcing the ball when he gets frustrated and the receivers are not open, but he did not do that.   Instead, he went through his progressions and threw underneath.  He also continues to come up with big third down runs to move the chains.  The one thing he needs to work on is his reactions when plays are called (again something I can see by being at the game).  He is very emotional and I could tell whether we were going to run or pass by his reactions.  It's good that he's a competitor and wants the ball, but I can bet you that opposing teams pick up on this. 

6.  Also the best games I have seen out of Boom and Saine.  They showed so much more patience and vision--it looks like Boom has finally slowed down and did not try to force things. 

7.  I know I've focused a lot of the offense above, but IMO it's pretty myopic to complain about the offense this game when the defense and special teams were what  let Iowa back in.  The offense had over 300 yards, and had drives of 79, 74, 73, 43, and 30.  Our kickoff coverage was not very good all night.  We had a major letdown on that kickoff return where we could have put them away.  Defensively, as I said Iowa had a great gameplan.  They didn't give OSU much of a chance to rush the passer with all the 3 step drops, and a good offensive line. But I still think the Defense played a little complacent.  They did not get the usual rush and Iowa may have had as many plays over 20 yards as the defense has given up all year.  But they definitely showed up in overtime. 

8.  Did anyone else notice how few seniors this team has during the introductions???  They are a VERY young team and with that in mind its pretty amazing how well they have reloaded and played this year.